Fish experts push for advanced propagation of high-value wild fish » Manila Bulletin News

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By Jojo Riñoza

FUTURE OF FISH PROPAGATION — National Integrated Fisheries Technology Development Center (NIFTDC) fish experts in Dagupan City led by Dr. Westly Rosario (left) study a mature ‘bulidao’ caught from the Abra River in Santa, Ilocos Sur which has about 5.7 million fish eggs in her belly. (Jojo Riñoza)

Dagupan City, Pangasinan — Fish experts from the National Integrated Fisheries Technology Development Center (NIFTDC), an office under the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR), wants to elevate the production of high-value fish species to new heights.

Dr. Westly Rosario, NIFTDC chief, said it is high time to modernize the techniques in propagating high-value fish like the “pigek” as known in Mindanao (or “bulidao” in Ilocano), which come very expensive in the market because of its rarity and incomparable taste.

Locals say the Bulidao, scientific name “Mesopristes cancellatus,” are so rare that they have to be pre-ordered. This means a fisherman’s catch for the day is already considered sold.

The latest market price is about P700 per kilogram at the local market in Ilocos Norte and this price triples as it reaches Metro Manila. That’s about P2,000 per kilo.

“This species are present and can be only caught along the river system of Rio Grande in Mindanao and the Abra River in Northern Luzon,” said Rosario.

Asked why this is so, he said: “The reasons for this are still unknown to experts.”

Elusive ‘bulidao’

Hatchery Technician Francisco Reyes Jr., a native of Santa, Ilocos Sur, said studies show how rare it is to catch the bulidao.

“The bulidao lives at ‘lingep’ or caves at the upstream of Abra River and during the typhoon season (July-September) they go along the fast and cold downstream of rainwater to the mouth of the River to spawn. It is only the time one can catch a bulidao,” said Reyes.

Rosario said this species is called “Catadronous.” “They live at the upstream of the river and swim downstream with the fast current during rainy season to spawn and eventually will swim back again upstream,” he said.

Bulidao under study

Recently, the NIFTDC has managed to capture seven pieces of bulidao from along the Abra River system in Santa and took them to the center alive.

Fish technicians have high hopes to learn how to keep the species alive and study how to propagate it. But, all efforts were lost when all the fish samples died within a few days.

“Keeping them alive for a few days was already a breakthrough,” said Rosario. “It is very hard to be able to bring them alive here at the center from Ilocos Sur. We haven’t been able to keep live species here. Actually nobody has done it yet,” he said.

Aquaculture intervention

Rosario said, “This kind of fish is very hard to grow in traditional or enclosed method.”

So, he suggests that a program on “aquaculture intervention on wild fisheries” should be done to properly study and eventually propagate the bulidao and other high-value fish species.

This method is similar to how salmon is propagated. Propagation should be done according to their natural pattern or life cycle, explained Rosario.

“The research and development of this method will lead to many things; one is the advancement of our aquaculture and enrichment of wild fisheries.”

For bulidao host-towns like Santa, this will also be beneficial to its community and a boost to its ecotourism.

“What is important is we learn how to reproduce this high-value fish species in enclosed condition, but must maintain its natural migration pattern, if it has to go upstream Abra River, then let’s make sure it can suitably do,” he said.

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